The Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden has opened up for the first time about the historic raid that took out America's Enemy Number One. In a long Esquire magazine profile titled "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed," the anonymous soldier—identified only as "The Shooter"—reveals that he's retired from the Navy and facing a bleak future. Because he quit before completing 20 years of service, he receives no pension, and even if he had stayed, the monthly payout would have been half his base pay: $2,197, which is the same as a member of the Navy choir. Phil Bronstein writes:
There is commerce attached to the mission, and people are capitalizing. Just not the triggerman. While others collect, he is cautious and careful not to dishonor anyone. His manners come at his own expense. "No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job," Barack Obama said last Veterans' Day, "or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home."
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
It's an interesting read, for both the detailed account of the fateful May 2011 raid in Abbottabad and the impact it's had on the soldiers who carried it out. The Shooter lives in fear for his family's safety—in the wake of the mission, the news media televised images of his home in Virginia Beach. He's trained his wife to use the shotgun they keep in the armoire. There's a knife in the nightstand. His children have been drilled on where to hide in the event of a home invasion. "Personally, I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago," his wife tells Esquire.
"He was their prophet, basically," the Shooter explains. "Now we killed him and I have to worry about this forever. Al Qaeda, especially these days, is 99 percent talk. But that 1 percent of the time they do shit, it's bad. They're capable of horrific things." The profile ends with Bronstein seeing Zero Dark Thirty with the Shooter, who had some minor complaints about how "they Hollywooded it up." But more than anything, he's concerned with what won't be featured in any movie version of his life. "I just want to be able to pay all those bills, take care of my kids, and work from there," he says.